NRL: Warriors' Reece Walsh to start for Queensland in shock State of Origin call-up

NZ Warriors phenom Reece Walsh has received a shock call-up to start for Queensland in the second State of Origin match on Sunday.

The 18-year-old will be thrown straight into the furnace at Suncorp Stadium, as the desperate Maroons search for answers, after being crushed in a record 50-6 defeat by NSW in the opener earlier this month.

Walsh becomes Queensland's youngest player in 26 years - since Ben Ikin in 1995 - having starred for the Maroons at U-18 level.

Walsh's selection is one of the biggest rolls of the dice since Ikin was picked after just four first-grade games, as the Maroons try to keep their series hopes alive.

All NRL sides have a bye this week, meaning Walsh would likely back up and play for the Warriors in their round 16 clash against the Dragons on July 2.

Since joining the Warriors from the Brisbane Broncos mid-season, the Gold Coast native has played just seven games for the Kiwi club but displayed the kind of signs of brilliance that have earmarked him as a potential future superstar.

The numbers support that, with four tries, eight try assists and 123 average run metres in his short first-grade career so far.

Regular starter Kalyn Ponga's ongoing injury has opened the door for Walsh, with coach Paul Green last week giving the fresh-faced flyer his vote of confidence for a potential debut.

"There's been guys in the past who have handled it at a young age," Green said.

"As Wally Lewis (NRL Immortal and Queensland legend) said, "If you are good enough, you are old enough."

"I haven't had anything to do with Reece, but by all reports he is a confident kid."

Last week, Walsh insisted Origin selection was far from his mind but would "have a crack" if it came.

"If that stuff comes, it comes later," he said. "I just want to focus on what’s happening now.

"It would be crazy to put on the Queensland jersey at senior level.

"I wouldn’t let Queensland down ... I would have a crack."

Warriors coach Nathan Brown has been vocal with his concerns about Walsh's quick ascension to representative football, believing it's not in the best interests of the teenager.

"It's not in anyone’s best interests to put an 18-year-old kid in State of Origin that’s played five games of footy in the NRL and didn’t play last year because of COVID," Brown said.

"I won’t make that decision. He might go out there and play well - I’m not saying he wouldn’t play well.

"But it’s certainly not in anyone’s best interests to have Reece at 18 in State of Origin, I don’t believe."

Assistant coach Justin Morgan echoed those sentiments, saying he didn't believe Walsh was ready for the step up to Origin level.

"No disrespect to Reece, I think Origin’s a bit beyond him at the moment," says Morgan. 

"Will he play Origin at some point? If I was a betting man I would say at some point.

"I think for his own development, so often in the past young players in key positions...thrown into Origin, it chews them up and spits them out and it takes them a while to find their feet again."

"To put that kind of pressure on him to organise the defensive line in a State of Origin game, I think he might need a little more time under the belt."

In other changes for the Maroons, wing Xavier Coates, Jayden Su'a, and Joe Ofahengaue have all been axed from the squad.

Dragons hooker Andrew McCullough has been recallled to replace injured Harry Grant, as has teammate Ben Hunt, while Cowboys prop Frank Molo and Sharks wing Ronaldo Mulitalo have earned first-time call-ups.

Queensland: 1. Reece Walsh, 2. Valentine Holmes, 3. Kurt Capewell, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Kyle Feldt, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Christian Welch, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Josh Papalii, 11. Jai Arrow, 12. Felise Kaufusi, 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui

Reserves: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Moeaki Fotuaika, 16. David Fifita, 17. Francis Molo, 18. Coen Hess, 19. Ronaldo Mulitalo

Join us at 9:50pm, Sunday for live updates of State of Origin II